Shelby Lyman on Chess: Brains and Brawn

Hint and Explanation: Force Checkmate

The notion of athletes, especially boxers, as thinkers may seem counterintuitive.

It is commonplace to think of athletes as jocks and boxers as pugs. The language tells it all.

But it is really not a surprise that brains, not brawn, is often the ingredient that makes a winner, even in heavyweight boxing — a sport often equated, for good reason, with brutality.

Gene Tunney, Jack Johnson and Archie Moore, the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Vladimir, who each have earned doctorates, and Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis immediately come to mind.

Such an enumeration can probably be made in any sport.

Chess itself is of use both inside and outside the ring.

According to BBC News Magazine, Lewis, who retired in 2004 as heavyweight champion, observed: “When someone calls you a name you want to punch them out … but chess teaches you to think through the next moves.”

Lewis was so convinced of the utility of chess in the ring that — to the consternation of his trainers — he would often spend several hours each day at the chessboard while preparing for key bouts.

It gave him, he insisted, a palpable advantage, all things being equal.

Against the American Mike Tyson — whom he characterized as a one-dimensional fighter — Lewis the chess player and strategist contrived to control the center of the ring.

Controlling the center, of course, is a key concept in chess.

Below is a win by Rustem Dautov against Bernd Rosen from the Bundesliga team tournament in Emsdetten, Germany.

Dautov Bernd

1. d4 e6

2. c4 f5

3. g3 Nf6

4. Bg2 c6

5. Qc2 d5

6. Nh3 Qb6

7. e3 Na6

8. a3 c5

9. dxc5 Qxc5

10. Nd2 Bd7

11. b4 Qc7

12. Bb2 Rc8

13. Rc1 dxc4

14. Qxc4 Qb6

15. Qb3 Rxc1ch

16. Bxc1 Be7

17. O-O O-O

18. Bb2 Nc7

19. Nf4 Rd8

20. Rc1 Bc8

21. Bd4 Rxd4

22. exd4 Bd7

23. Nc4 Qb5

24. Ne5 Bd6

25. Rxc7 Bxc7

26. Nxe6 Black resigns

Solution to Beginner’s Corner: 1. Qh6ch! If … Kxh6, 2. Rh1 mate! If … Kg8, 2. Qxg6ch also leads to mate (Spassky-Korchnoi ’68).